Kaneez Surka: I Am Not Going to Let Internet Dictate When I Need to Answer
In a freewheeling chat, Kaneez talks about improv comedy, the challenges of being a female comedian in India, taking her own time to process her #MeToo story and why we need more women humorists.
Kaneez Surka is a popular name in the Indian comedy space. (Image: Instagram/Kaneez Surka)
On October 10, comedian Kaneez Surka tweeted a detailed statement accusing fellow comedian Aditi Mittal of kissing her on the mouth without her consent while she was performing on stage in Mumbai two years ago. For her closure, she demanded a public apology from Aditi, which she got the same day.
In the week since then, several other people have been accused, charges levelled and statements made but Kaneez is not ready yet to talk more about her #MeToo story.
In a freewheeling chat at the recently held India Film Project, the 34-year-old talked about the hazards of being a female comedian, the shift in audience’s sensibilities, the need to humanise our idols and why she wouldn’t get forced into talking before she is ready to.
How difficult is it to be a female comedian in a country where this sector is predominantly male?
I used to say it isn’t hard but it is, because a lot of people don’t like to see women doing comedy. You see that in the comments. A lot of people just hate me for being a female. It’s a pity. They haven’t even seen my content. It’s difficult because that does stop you in your tracks. But you need to plough through it.
Do you think the way audiences perceive comedy has changed in the last five years?
Definitely. We are a very new industry, only 10 years old. We are all growing. The audience sometimes dictates what the next trend is. Other times we bring out something new that the audience hasn’t seen before.
I once did a joke on stage three years ago and it was hilarious. But when I recently did it, there wasn’t as much laughter. I realised the audience had evolved and I couldn’t keep doing the same kind of jokes.
Because comedians are public figures with massive following, do you think they need to be more responsible in what they say, do and propagate?
Most of us in the comedy industry are really young. Everyone is growing but there is just no allowance for that. It’s like you said something three years ago and you need to stick by it. It’s not fair. We’re going to say things, do things and make mistakes. We are also evolving, learning and growing.
So many comedians have been accused of sexual misconduct in the last few weeks…
I am processing all of this. It’s so new. It literally happened days ago, for me and other people. I don’t want to comment right now. I can’t articulate my thoughts right now and I don’t want to say something again which people will hold me to at a later stage.
I should allow myself to have time. That’s a big learning for me where I am not going to let internet dictate how fast I grow or when I need to answer. I should get to have control over my life.
Considering that creating and writing comedy usually takes a lot of time, how difficult is it to do it improv?
I keep saying this—I don’t do jokes, I do comedy. That’s the thing about improv—it’s not about making jokes or being funny on the spot. It’s actually about creating funny moments, scenes and skits. So there’s not as much pressure on improv. The onus is not on any one person. Together we work as a team to create something funny.
Your message to young girls who aspire to do comedy…
As I have grown, so has the hostility. But for females who are interested in doing comedy, this is the time to come out because people want to hear women speak now, want to know their perspective.
Follow @sneha_bengani for more.
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